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THE ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS AS SUGGESTED BY
By ARTHUR C. PARKER
THE origin of Iroquoian material culture is a subject of perti-
nent interest to every student of American aboriginal
culture history. No comparative study has yet been at-
tempted, and no one has been bold enough to gather all the facts
and advance a working hypothesis.
The origin of the Iroquois was a mystery to Dr. David Boyle,
even though he lived in one Iroquoian cultural center. Most
writers have remarked that there are few places where Iroquoian
artifacts are found unmixed with evidences of contact with the
European. The few early sites, of pre-colonial occupation, there-
fore, ought to be most instructive to the investigator, but, as a
matter of fact, the purely aboriginal material found in such sites
differs but slightly from those of later date, except those of a very
recent period. The archeology of the Ouendat or Huron, is appar-
ently quite similar to that of the confederate Iroquois.
In pursuing our inquiry it is soon discovered that there are
definite centers in which material known to be, or termed Iroquoian,
may be found. In scattered spots bordering on these centers are
isolated Iroquoian specimens, as on Manhattan Island, but the
fact still remains that Iroquoian artifacts are only found in numbers
within certain definite centralized localities, and that these objects
are not seemingly more than five or six hundred years old. Many
sites show an age of less than one hundred and fifty years. At
most, let us say tentatively, that within the well-recognized areas,
objects recognized as Iroquoian seem only to indicate a period of
cultural fixedness of less than six hundred years.
The centers of prehistoric Iroquoian occupations, recognized
as such by the objects known to archeologists as Iroquoian, are:
(i) the St. Lawrence basin with Montreal as a center; (2) the
480 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
region between Georgian bay and Ontario with Lake Simcoe as a
center; (3) the Niagara peninsula in Ontario following the Grand
river; (4) the Genesee river — Finger lake region; (5) Chautauqua
county, stretching across the Pennsylvania neck into Ohio ; (6) the
highlands east of Lake Ontario in Jefferson county; (7) Oneida,
Madison, and Onondaga counties; and (8) the Susquehanna about
Elmira. Circles of various circumferences may be drawn from these
centers intercepting smaller centers. This plan of approximating
areas is only a scheme to fix the localities in our minds, and no
attempt is made to make them independent localities with definite
boundaries. The contour of the land, streams, lakes, lines of
travel, and danger from enemies largely determined the early
limitations of occupied territory.
With these data in mind, we wish now to inquire which of these
centers are the oldest and if there is any possible means of deter-
mining the causes that made Iroquoian material culture differ
from the surrounding Algonkian. We wish to inquire, as others
have before us, whence the Iroquois stock came into these centers
and what clue may be found showing a migration from earlier
centers. We wish to inquire just how definitely valuable are
Iroquoian objects, as they are now recognized, in determining a
migration from other regions.
Perhaps first, then, we ought to inquire just how permanent
any form of material culture is and whether there have been any
revolutions not to say modifications in the material culture of a
stock. We ought to consider that there are Algonkian tribes, for
example, that are Siouan in culture and Siouan tribes that are
Algonkian as the Blackfeet and Winnebago respectively. The
writer at one time showed some of the Lafitau drawings of Iroquoian
villages to a Seneca Indian, who was a tribal authority on the
modern religious ceremonies of his tribe. "Our people never lived
that way," he said. In this it is seen that the Iroquois of today
have totally forgotten their early fortifications and architecture,
though Cusick in 1825 wrote of "forts." Of another native
authority the writer asked the date when the Iroquois confederacy
originated. "With the teachings of our great ancestor, Hand-
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 481
some Lake, I think," he replied. Then he added after hesitation,
"No, it was before that, I remember now it was in the time of
In these answers, incorrect or uncertain as they are, may be
fourfd material for serious consideration. They point out two men
with whose names are linked two distinct periods of cultural
revolution. Each blotted out the memory of a former period.
The people of each period systematically forgot the history of the
preceding periods. Today the Iroquois of New York base nearly
all their tribal ceremonies on the doctrines of Handsome Lake,
who flourished between 1800 and 181 5. So great was the influence
of his teaching that he practically created and crystallized a new
system of tribal thought and a new plan of action. His earlier
predecessor was Dekanawideh to whom, with the aid of Hiawatha,
is ascribed the origin of the Iroquois confederacy. Dekanawideh so
crystallized the things of the older period with his own devices,
teachings, and admonitions that the methods, beliefs, and
thought-ways of the preceding period lost their identity in the
minds of the Iroquois people. All civic and much of the
religious thought centered in Dekanawideh. That which pre-
ceded was either blotted out or swallowed up. The Iroquois
took on a new mantle. Now it does not seem impossible
that before the time of Dekanawideh and Hiawatha, other seers
had arisen to change or revolutionize the thought-ways of this stock.
The inquiry comes quite naturally, therefore, as to whether a
like revolution could not occur in the material culture of a people.
Might not the older systems of decorative art have been gradually
abandoned and new ones taken on? Preceding the period beginning
about 600 or 650 years ago, might not Iroquois art and artifacts
have been different? Or, if there were no Iroquois in this region
then, might not they have had differently decorated pottery, for
example, when they came than that which later developed and is
now known as Iroquoian? These are questions archeology may
some day answer. Our present knowledge gives us only the Iroquois
potsherd and does not tell us why it is as it is.
There are certain Iroquoian traditions that seem to have good
482 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
foundation, relating that at a certain period all the Iroquois were
one people, living together and speaking the same tongue. Indeed
so positive were the Iroquois of this that they could point out a
certain woman and say that she represented the lineal descendant
of the first Iroquoian family. Yet the confederate Iroquois knew
that she did not belong in the five tribes. She was a Neuter
woman. "When the bands divided," the traditions run, "it was
found that the family of Djigo n 'sas£, Fat Face or Wild Cat, fell
to the Neutral Nation." She was called Ye-gowa'n£, The Great
Woman, and she was "the mother of the nations." In the Dekana-
wideh-Hiawatha tradition, a woman with this title is represented
as being constantly consulted by both Hiawatha and Dekanawideh.
The latter was a Wyandot (Ouendat) from the bay of Quinte, at
the foot of Lake Ontario. This points to an early recognition of
blood relationship and a recollection of the time when the Erie,
Neuter, Huron, Seneca, and Mohawk-Onondaga were of one
common tribe, a fact that archeology and philology, of course,
In this original tribe any culture revolution would definitely
influence the various subdivisions and be carried by each as it
separated eventually from the parent body. Constant intercourse
would serve to preserve the culture until it became fixed. Now,
assuming, for the sake of argument, that there was an "original
tribe" and that a revolution did take place in the decorative art
of the Huron-Iroquois, whence did that tribe come and when did
its arts change? Traditions again point to a migration from the
southwest. Ethnologists are familiar with the Delaware Walum
Olum, but few are familiar with Iroquois migration myths, for the
reason that they are few, and those brief and difficult to recognize
as such. 1 However, so many of the Iroquois (confederated) myths
point to the southwest country that we must pause to consider just
why they have been handed down. We must ask why the "tree
of the long sword-like leaves," is mentioned so often in the Dekana-
wideh epic, and why so learned an Iroquois as Dr. Peter Wilson
1 We place no credence in the Cusick account as embraced in his Sketches of the
Ancient History of the Six Nations.
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 483
called it a "palm tree." We must consider why so many Iroquois
expeditions were directed against enemies down the Ohio and on the
Mississippi. We must consider, too, a certain alleged grammatical
resemblance between the Caddoan languages and the Iroquoian.
Perhaps all these considerations will be termed fanciful and lacking
in serious value, but even if this is admitted they do have the certain
virtue of stimulating inquiry.
The older theory that all the Iroquois originated or had their
early home along the St. Lawrence about Montreal is not entirely
without serious flaws. I believe from archeological evidence that
certain Iroquoian tribes never came from the St. Lawrence region,
for example the Seneca. The Seneca and Erie divisions seem to
have been as closely allied in western New York as the Onondaga
and Mohawk were in northern and eastern New York. The
Mohawk (or Laurentian Iroquois) never agreed with the Senecan
division and there indeed seems to have been a long period of separa-
tion which made these two dialects more unlike than all the others
of the five. It would seem that the early band of Iroquois had
divided at the Detroit or the Niagara river, one passing over and
coursing the northern shores and the other continuing on the
southern shores of Erie and Ontario. It would seem that the
northern branch became the Huron and Mohawk-Onondaga; that
those who coursed south of these lakes became the Seneca-Erie,
the Conestoga (Andaste) and the Susquehannock. It also appears
that the Cherokee and Tuscarora separated earlier than the Senecan
and Huron-Mohawk divisions.
In the analysis that follows we shall briefly consider the material
culture of the Iroquois. In the topical discussion we have repeated
certain facts under one topic mentioned in another, not for the
sake of emphasis only but to obtain another view of the same facts
when differently correlated.
An Outline of Iroquoian Material Culture Based on
In considering the origin of the Iroquois, their migration, and
their connection with and similarity to other tribes or stocks, it is
484 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
of importance to know just what is typically Iroquoian; that is to
say, what implements or ornaments may be regarded as distinctive.
Arrowheads. — The first object which a field investigator learns
to recognize, as the sign of Iroquo'an occupation, is the thin tri-
angular arrowhead of chert. Nearly all Iroquois arrowpoints seem
to have been of this type. On village, on campsite, or in graves the
delicately chipped triangle is found almost to the exclusion of all
other forms. It may not be regarded, therefore, as only a "war
point" but also as a hunting point. Plenty of knives are found
on Iroquoian village sites, but only a few chipped implements that
may be regarded as spear heads. Very few flint drills are found in
comparison with objects associated with other occupations. The
same remark is also true of scrapers, although scrapers are found
occasionally. The Iroquois were not flint workers as were their
predecessors in this region and they used other material in place of
flint wherever possible.
Polished Stone Implements. — The celt, better termed the un-
grooved axe, and the flat-bellied adze were used by the Iroquois
who seem never to have used the grooved axe. Their ungrooved
axes, however, are well made and both types are, in many instances,
carefully polished. The Iroquoian adze on the top or back is
either beveled in flat planes or rounded. The small celts and adzes
are common and seem to have been used as chisels and scrapers
rather than as axes. In many instances these are simply water-
washed stones, suitably shaped by nature, and rubbed to a cutting
edge. The Iroquois seem never or rarely to have used gouges.
They had perforated polished stone beads in abundance, but never
seem to have used gorgets, stone tubes, birdstones, or banner stones.
This is so common an observation on the part of the archeologist
that it may be safely said that no polished stone implement with
a hole drilled straight through it is Iroquoian. There were, indeed,
polished stone pipes but no straight pipes. We except also stone
beads and occasional small stone faces.
Stone Tools. — The Iroquois along the Susquehanna may have
used stone hoes but the various overlapping occupations render
this doubtful. It is certain, however, that the Iroquois did not
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 485
generally use the long cylindrical roller pestle, but some have been
found on early sites. They did use a flattened muller and a shallow
flattened mortar or meal-stone, and these are common on nearly
all Iroquoian sites.
Notched sinkers are very common and generally were made of
a flattened water-washed stone, about the size and shape of the
palm of the hand, though various sizes larger or smaller are found.
Pitted stones are abundant. Some appear to have been ham-
mers, judging from the battered" edges, but others are pitted on
either side and show no battering on the edges. Some of the pits
are neatly and symmetrically drilled, others roughly picked in as
if a flint had been pounded against the stone. This is especially
noticeable in the softer stones. Other hammers are of diabase,
granite, or other hard rock and have no pits. Their battered sides,
some with flattened planes or faces, others rounded, give evidence
of hard and prolonged use.
Anvils, that is flat stones upon which stone was hammered, are
fairly common. Now and then an arrow shaft rubber is found and
plenty of scratched stones, or "awl sharpeners' ' are in evidence and
occasionally a " sinew stone" comes to light.
Shell Ornaments. — The later Iroquois loved shell ornaments such
as beads, perforated shells, runtees and disks, masketts, and vari-
ously formed effigies, but they did not have them in any abundance
until the coming of the white man. Shell beads of spherical shape,
cylindrical, or even discoidal appear on early sites, most of them
from the columella of the conch. Perforated periwinkles also were
used but only a few beads small enough to be similar to the wampum
of the colonial period have been found, compared with the abun-
dance that later appeared. Large conch shells have been found
on certain Neuter sites, especially in Erie and Genesee counties.
Now and then a clam shell is found, used possibly as a potter's
tool. The fresh water univalve was frequently employed for this
purpose and they are sometimes found in pits filled with clay.
Pottery. — The most strikingly characteristic product of Iroquoian
manufacture is pottery. Both in form and decoration, generally
speaking, Huron-Iroquois pottery differs from that found in other
486 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s. f 18, 1916
regions. At the same time we must qualify a statement of an
absolute difference from all others, for on certain sites pottery is
found that resembles, in many respects, the pottery of the Ohio
village sites, as of Baum and Gartner, and even certain pottery
of Tennessee but this is the exception and not the rule.
Typical Iroquoian pottery is known both by its shape and by its
decoration. The typical pot (pi. xvii) has a globular body that
as it turns inward toward the top, turns upward and outward into
a constricted neck, and a flaring or overhanging collar respectively.
The width of the neck at its base is about one sixth of the circum-
ference of the body and it rises as if from the top of an imaginary
hexagon drawn inside the globe. From the top of the neck, which
turns outward like the bell of a trumpet, rises a collar, sometimes
round but as often four-sided and having an upward turn at each
corner. This collar is frequently decorated by a series of triangles
within which have been drawn lines close together and parallel
with one side of the triangle (pi. xvin). These triangles contrast
with one another as the parallel lines slant obliquely, either right
or left, in the adjacent space. At the corners figures are often
drawn having three round dots punched in to make a conventional
human face (eyes and mouth.) In a few instances the face stands
out in effigy, or an entire human figure more or less conventionalized
There are instances where these triangular parallel lines are
absent and where the overhanging collar is rare. Certain of the
earlier forms of Iroquois pottery have very little of this lined
decoration as in the case of that of the Ripley site. In other cases
as at Burning Springs, 1 the Gerry village, 2 and at the Reed fort 3 the
incised lines appear, but they run in wider patterns and far down
the wide neck, which is not so constricted as in the Mohawk valley
forms. Another variation is that of a globular squatty bowl with
a short neck which turns outward in a rim that is notched, indented,
knobbed, or scalloped. This type is found on the Silverheels
1 At the mouth of Big Indian creek, Cattaraugus county.
2 Chautauqua county, see Report State Museum, 1907, Albany, N. Y.
3 Near Richmond Mills, Ontario county.
N. S., VOL. 18, PL. XVII
TYPICAL IROQUOIS VESSEL FOUND
N A ROCK SHELTER ON THE INDIAN RIVER, JEFFERSON
THE HEIGHT IS 14^ INCHES
N. S.. VOL. 18, PL. XVlll
mi tn i. m
POTTERY DESIGNS TYPICAL OF THE ONONDAGA, MOHAWK AND ONEIDA. THESE ARE
THE DECORATIONS ON OVERHANGING COLLARS
N. S., VOL. 1 8, PL. XIX
IROQUOIS POTTERY VESSELS. COMMON BUT NOT USUALLY RECOGNIZED AS IROQUOIAN.
1. SENECA VESSEL WITH WIDE COLLAR WHICH DOES NOT OVERHANG. 2. ERIE POT WITH
PITCHER NOSE. 3. SENECA POT DECORATED OVER ENTIRE OUTER SURFACE. 4. ERIE
POT SHOWING MARKS OF SMOOTHING TOOL DRAWN FROM RIGHT TO LEFT OBLIQUELY.
5. SENECA BOWL. 6. NOTCHED RIM SENECA VESSEL. 7. ERIE BOWL SHOWING SCRATCHES
OF MODELING BRUSH
N. S., VOL. 18, PL. XX
TYPICAL IROQUOIS CLAY PIPES FROM NEW YORK. 1. TRUMPET-SHAPED PIPE COMMON
IN THE EARLY ONONDAGA AND ERIE SITES. 2. "MOON" PIPE FROM PREHISTORIC ONON-
DAGA SITE. 3. PIPE BOWL WITH BIRD HEAD EFFIGY, FROM A SENECA SITE. 4. FACE
FROM AN ONEIDA PIPE. 5. EFFIGY PIPE, ANIMAL HEAD, ONTARIO COUNTY. 6. EFFIGY OF
MAN'S HEAD WITH SKIN ROBE DRAWN OVER HEAD AND SHOULDERS. GENESEE VALLEY
IROQUOIAN SITE. 7. TYPICAL SENECA PIPE FROM WESTERN NEW YORK
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 487
site, 1 the Gus Warren site near West Bloomfield and in Penn-
sylvania, as at White Haven. A few Iroquois pots had pitcher
noses (pi. xix). Some of these have been found near Buffalo, at
Ripley, and in Jefferson county near Watertown. The pitcher
nose may or may not be a development from one of the four corners
of the square-topped type. Other pots have small handles that
unite the collar with the neck or body of the vessel. Such have
been found on certain sites near Buffalo, at Ripley, and in Jefferson
county. More have been found in the latter place than elsewhere.
Now and then seemingly aberrant forms are found. At Ripley
bowls were found that differed in no way from those found in the
mound-builder villages of Ohio. They bear no resemblance to
any known Iroquois type, but have a rather long, oval body with
a wide, flaring mouth. Some were low and like a modern bowl.
The surface was scratched and roughened in pseudo-fabric lines or
scratched with a twig brush. Two or three peculiar bowls were
found on the Dahn site near Honeoye Falls, that approximate
certain Missouri forms. The bowls are squat, with a wide flaring
mouth. Three or four flattened handles unite the under side of the
Up with the body of the vessel. The flattened handle is unique
on this site, which however, yields European objects.
Pipes. — Equally, if not more striking than the pottery vessels,
are the clay pipes. These are usually gracefully modeled and have
stems from three to ten inches in length. The general base line
of these pipes is one that follows the line formed by the forefinger
and thumb, when the thumb is extended at right angles to the hand
and the ball turned back. This is the lower line of the trumpet
pipe, for example (pi. xx). Iroquois pipes sometimes have bowls
imitating the tops of pots. In other instances the bowls imitate
the bodies or heads of birds, mammals, or snakes. Many have the
chevron pattern, or parallel lines, arranged in triangles about the
bowl top. Some of the forms widely found throughout the Iro-
quoian area are; the trumpet form, the square-topped flaring bowl,
the cylindrical bowl having a wide collar decorated with parallel
rings, the bird body with the bowl in the bird's back, the effigy of a
1 On the Cattaraugus reservation, Erie Co., N. Y,
488 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
man with his hands to his mouth blowing through his lips, animal
heads as of the bear, raccoon, or fox, and pipes having a human
head modeled on the bowl (pi. xx).
Pipes of stone (pi. xxi) sometimes have stems carved with the
bowl, but these form the minority in collections. Some resemble
the outlines of simple clay pipes, others do not. Some bowls are
oval, some are vase or urn-shaped. More elaborate forms resemble
bird bodies, as the owl, or represent a lizard, or other creature
crawling over an oval or bowl. Several observations may be made
concerning Iroquois stone pipes. A negative remark is that none
are tubular and none have the monitor base, common in the mound-
builder region. Iroquois stone pipes in general are so unlike their
clay pipes that they bear no resemblance of having been made by the
same people. The outline, decoration, modeling, and size differ,
even though found in the same grave or village site with clay pipes.
Stone pipes of all the forms mentioned are found in prehistoric*
Iroquian sites as well as those of the late colonial period, so that
their form and use may be regarded as stable and widely known.
Bone Implements. — Among the most common bone articles are
bone awls of all forms and cylindrical bone beads. The latter are
usually made of hollow bird bones and many are beautifully
polished. There were bone needles and shuttles. Bone phalanges
cut or ground on one side or shaped as cone-pendants, are found in
abundance. The canine teeth or tusks of bears and wolves per-
forated for suspension seem to have been favorite decorations,
and the much prized elk tooth is found. Bear teeth were ground
sharp for knives or scrapers, and beaver teeth were shaped for
scrapers. The molars of the bear were ground down and with one
root cut off, were shaped like a human foot. Perforated disks cut
from the human skull were also used, but human bones outside of
this were not employed.
In certain early sites, as on the Reed farm, near Richmond Mills,
bone scrapers or beaming tools are found made from metapodial
bones of deer or elk (pi. xxni). These are similar in every way to
those found in certain Ohio sites not Iroquoian. They are not
found in later Seneca sites.
N. S., VOL. 1 8, PL, XXI
IROQUOIS STONE PIPES FROM AN ERIE SITE, BUT SIMILAR TO OTHERS FOUND THROUGH-
OUT THE IROQUOIS AREA
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 489
Bone implements are commonly found in Iroquoian village
sites, especially in ash and refuse heaps or pits. The ashes seem
to have acted as a special preservative.
Miscellaneous Bone Objects. — Among the more striking imple-
ments of bone are bone combs (pi. xxn), the earlier.forms resembling
a modern fork and having only three or four large teeth, perhaps
one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter or more. The tops are usually
plain, although in a few instances there is a simple perforation.
As the colonial period is approached the combs become wider and
have more teeth. Decoration at the top is at first simple and
generally entirely lacking. With the coming of cutting implements
of steel, combs take on an entirely new form, resembling in general
motive a lady's back comb of modern times. These have from
fifteen to twenty teeth, generally two inches long, above which
rises a decorative top or handle upon which is fretted out the effigies
of various birds or the human figure. Combs of this character
are found in many of the sites of the middle colonial period.
Small effigies of animals were sometimes cut out of flat bone and
larger effigies of the human figure were carved from heavier bone
(pi. xxn) . Some of these are apparently pre-colonial. The modern
Seneca say that their ancestors carved small images of the human
figure to represent a witch and by placing them in bags or other re-
ceptacles were able to prevent the evil influence of the witch after
whom the effigies were named.
The carapace of the tortoise or box turtle is commonly found in
graves and fragments are sometimes found in refuse pits. Some-
times the shell is perforated with seven or eight holes. These may
have been used either as knee rattles or as hand rattles, carried in
some of the ceremonies.
It is not uncommon to find arrowheads of both bone and antler;
and it is quite likely that the Iroquois used projectile tips of this
material wherever possible. It is said by the modern Seneca that
some of their arrows were headed only with a sharp point formed
directly on the shaft and hardened by semi-charring. Harpoons
were made of bone and sometimes there are several barbs quite
unlike, however, the barbs in the European spear.
490 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s. f i8, 1916
Fishhooks were of the simple hook type without a barb and
resemble in every way the fishhooks found in the Ohio village sites,
as at Madison ville. Occasionally bone whistles are found made
from the long leg-bone of some bird or of the wing-bone of a wild
Earthworks. — No adequate idea of the prehistoric Iroquois can
be acquired without some description or mention of their earthworks.
Scattered through the western and northern portion of the State of
New York are more than one hundred earth embankments, ditches,
and circular enclosures. Most of these were probably not erected
in any sense as earthworks but simply as the base for a stockaded
wall. Tree trunks from fifteen to twenty feet high were trimmed
off and planted from six inches to a foot deep in a shallow ditch
in the top of the wall and the earth was packed in about them.
The tops were further secured by being tied together with bark
ropes and withes. There are good historic descriptions of these
palisaded enclosures. The area within them ranges from one eighth
of an acre to more than seven or eight, and it is supposed that they
contained fortified villages or were places of refuge from both human
and animal enemies. They do not differ in any way from the
stockaded enclosures of the province of Ontario, in the Huron-
Iroquois area. In some instances they do not materially differ
from the earth enclosures found throughout Ohio. It may be said,
however, that none of them are so extensive in size as such works as
Fort Ancient, nor, except in rare instances, are the embankments
more than three or four feet high.
There are three general forms of the stockaded enclosure.
The first, the hilltop stronghold, was naturally fortified on all
sides and had the narrow neck, which connected the out-jutting
hill with the general terrace of which it formed a part, shut off with
of a palisaded wall. Deep ravines on either side brought natural
protection from sudden onslaught of enemies; and the places were
rendered further secure by having the neck protected by a stockaded
wall and perhaps an outer ditch. The ditch served two purposes.
It afforded the material out of which the wall was erected, and it
made it more difficult for the enemy to climb the stockade or to set
N. S., VOL. 18, PL. XXII
IROQUOIS BONE AND ANTLER OBJECTS. 1. EARLY IRCQIIOIS COMB. 2. SENECA COMB
OF THE COLONIAL PERIOD. 3. ANTLER KNIFE HANDLE. 4. PREHISTORIC IROQUOIS COMB.
5. ONEIDA KNIFE HANDLE. 6. BONE DOLL OR FGURINE. 7. BONE BEAMER MADE FROM
METAPODIAL BONE OF ELK. FROM PREHISTORIC SENECA SITE
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 491
fire to its base. Typical hilltop strongholds are those at Ellington,
Chautauqua county; the Reed fort near Richmond Mills, Ontario
county ; the fort near Portage in Wyoming county ; and the pre-
historic Mohawk site at Garoga.
A second form of protected enclosure is irregular in form and
follows somewhat the natural line of the ground. It may or may
not be upon a hilltop. Examples of this form are found on the
Atwell site, near Cazenovia; the stockade near Livonia, Livingston
county, known as the Tram site; and near Macomb, St. Lawrence
county, on the farm of William Houghton, near Birch creek.
A third form is an enclosure more or less circular in form with
a low wall and shallow outer ditch. Examples of these are such
enclosures as are found at Oakfield, Genesee county; 1 at Elbridge,
Onondaga county, where there is a circular enclosure covering
about three acres of ground; or the circular fort on the Lawrence
farm in the Clear creek valley, near Ellington.
Usually within these enclosures pits are found in which refuse
had been deposited or corn stored. The soil shows more or less
traces of occupation and occasionally graves are found in one
portion. Beside the choice of the spot as a natural defense there
were other considerations, such as proximity to good agricultural
land which, for primitive people with inadequate tools, must be a
light sandy loam, a plentiful supply of water, nearness to the proper
kind of timber, and a location near a trail or stream navigable for
canoes. It is not easy to determine, however, why some localities
were chosen, for they are overlooked by hills from which the enemy
could assail the fortification, or are situated in swamp lands. There
were probably many considerations that attracted the Indians to
these spots that have been obliterated with the destruction of the
The earlier sites of this character in the Iroquois district in New
York were upon the hilly lands south of the Great Lakes; and it
does not appear that the Iroquois came down from their hilltop
strongholds except in few remote localities until about the beginning
1 These enclose about ten acres of land and were described by Squier, fig. 8 in
492 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
of the historic period when they began to build their towns on the
lowlands, nearer the shores of lakes Erie and Ontario. This obser-
vation is especially true in western and central New York but does
not fully apply to the Iroquoian area in Jefferson county. It is
quite likely that the Iroquois did not drive out all their enemies or
take full possession of this territory until a short period before the
opening of the colonial epoch. An example of village sites or earth-
works, upon or near the lake shores are those found at Ripley,
Chautauqua county. Most villages, however, were from ten to
twenty miles back from the shores of Erie or Ontario.
Mortuary Customs. — There seem to have been several methods
of disposing of the dead. Many human remains are found buried
beneath the ground indicating that the body was intact when
interred. Traditions and historical evidence point out also the
custom of placing the body wrapped in blankets or skins in the
branches of large trees; and there are preserved in the Seneca
tongue, the various terms employed to describe the details of this
type of burial. Burial houses were also erected in which the
bodies of the dead were placed until decay had reduced them to
bones. For the disposal of these bones research shows that they
were gathered up and buried in bundles in separate graves. Some-
times several skeletons are found in bundles in a single grave, with
or without accompanying relics, such as pots, flints, pipes, etc.
The Iroquois, especially the Neuter nation, the Huron, and
perhaps the Erie also, had ossuaries in which from ten to fifty or
one hundred remains were placed. Few relics are ever found in
ossuaries of the earlier period. In the individual burial, where the
body was placed intact in the grave, the skeleton is almost invari-
ably on one side with the knees drawn toward the head near
which the hands rest. This position is that assumed by a sleeping
person, drawn up to keep warm.
In the earlier graves there are few material objects found, but
as the time ranged into the colonial period more durable relics are
found, showing the gradual growth of prosperity and a greater
abundance of material property. The burial objects that have
survived the elements are clay pots, clay and stone pipes, flint
ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS
objects, such as knives, triangular points, celts, bone objects, shell
objects, etc. These are usually found near the chest, hands, or
head. Among the hundreds of Iroquois graves and skeletons found
by the writer not one has been found "sitting up" and among the
Fig. 56. — Typical Iroquoian burial, showing position of pot and pipe in grave.
thousand or more burials of all cultures discovered, none were
sitting up nor did the bones "crumble upon exposure to the air."
The Iroquois had no definite orientation for the grave, no special
side, the only general rule being the flexed position, reclining on
one side (fig. 56).
The predecessors of the Iroquois had also this rule, though
the makers of the stone graves in New York generally placed their
dead lying straight on the back.
494 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s. f 18, 1916
Miscellaneous Observations.- — The Iroquois did not use vessels
of steatite, but their carved wooden bowls of the longer type were
fashioned like them in the sense of having handles or lugs at each
Iroquois textiles have never received a careful study (for they
are little known), but they did weave nets, bags, belts, and even
shoes. Their corn husk sandals differ a little from the sandals or
moccasins found in. the caves of Missouri. Small fragments of
cloth and woolen bags prove that they understood weaving and
The Iroquois carved wood, and indeed the confederate Iroquois
law required that the national feast bowl should represent a beaver.
The idea of making receptacles resembling animals with their
backs or heads hollowed out was common. Their wooden spoons
had bowls shaped like clam shells and at the top of the handle was
carved a bird or animal strikingly like those they modeled on pipes.
The Iroquois were an agricultural people and village dwellers.
Early Iroquois villages were on hills overlooking valleys and were
stockaded. The early villages had earth rings about them and
sometimes an outer ditch. Upon this ring or wall of earth the
palisades were erected. Later villages were in the valleys beside
lakes and streams, and were not stockaded. The Iroquois towns of
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were, in increasing numbers,
without such walls. The Iroquois did not build mounds of the
character known throughout Ohio or Wisconsin, at least at the time
when they used the pottery and pipes we have described.
Iroquois houses were of bark, and there were large communal
dwellings. Many of them held from five to twelve families or
more. They had either a rounded or pitched roof with openings at
the top, as a vent for each fire beneath. The Iroquois did not
ordinarily employ the conical skin tipi.
The permanency of their village life is indicated in a measure
by their vast fields of corn and other vegetables. Agriculture
exercised an immense influence over their national life, and it was
pursued with method and on a large scale. There are accounts
of expeditions sent out to procure new seeds and vegetable foods.
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 495
The Iroquois system of consanguinity was matriarchal. There
were various clans having animal symbols and names. The
women nominated the civil sachems and could veto the acts of the
Cosmogony. — The Iroquois cosmogony relates that a pregnant
woman fell from the heaven world. She fell upon the back of a
great turtle and gave birth to a female child. This child grew
quickly to maturity and gave birth to two sons, good-minded and
evil-minded, or more properly, Light one and Dark one. The Light
or shiny one molded man after seeing his reflection in the water.
He found his father dwelling on the top of a mountain that rose
from the sea "to the east" and begged from him certain gifts tied
up in bags which were given. Reaching his home land again, he
opened them and found animals and birds of all kinds, trees and
plants. The mother of the two boys died in giving them birth,
killed by Dark one or The Warty (Flinty) one, who insisted on emerg-
ing through her armpit. The grandmother nursed the boys and bade
them watch their mother's grave. The food plants and tobacco
sprang from her grave. The sun and moon in other versions were
made from her face, eyes, and limbs.
Nearly all Iroquois legends relate to incidents connected with
the southwest. Many expeditions relating to the country down
the Ohio river are recounted. Few stories of the north are related.
The north was only the land of great terrors and savage giants.
The Comparison of the Iroquoian Culture with that of
As has been seen in the foregoing description outlining the
material culture of the Iroquois, there are certain definite things
which characterize their handiwork. The Algonkian 'tribes to some
degree, erected earthworks or stockaded enclosures but apparently
of far less extent than the Iroquois. In this respect the Iroquois
more closely resemble the Indian of Ohio and the southern states.
With the exception of the size and height of the embankments their
earthen walled enclosures do not greatly depart from certain Ohio
forms. The Iroquois, however, in no sense erected mounds of the
49^ AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
character found in Ohio, neither does it appear that they were
numerous enough to require, or to be able to erect, such extensive
earthworks. A greater number of these enclosures are found in
New York, west of the Finger Lake district and on the hilly regions
of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie, Wyoming, Genesee, Livingston,
and Ontario counties. A few are found eastward as in Jefferson
county, but a great majority are in the localities we have men-
The Iroquois were an agricultural people like those of the south,
of Virginia and Georgia, or of the mound district in Ohio and the
Ohio valley. Corn cobs and other vegetables are frequently found
in ashpits and refuse heaps in Iroquois village sites, and the use of
tobacco may be deduced from the prevalence of smoking pipes.
Unlike the Indians of Ohio who built the mounds and forti-
fications, or the southern Indians, those of Georgia and Alabama,
or the Algonkian east and north of them, the Iroquois did not use
implements or ornaments of copper or mica; neither did they use
ornaments of polished slate such as gorgets, stone tubes, bird
stones, boat stones, and banner stones. They did not use the bell
pestle or cylindrical pestle, nor as a rule did they ornament their
pottery with fabric marks, notwithstanding the fact that they
wove fabrics similar to those the impressions of which are found on
baked pottery in the Algonkian area. They did not use the grooved
axe, common among all the peoples about them, nor did they have
the monitor pipe commonly found in Ohio, Kentucky, the southern
states, and throughout New England. Except in rare instances,
they did not use flints having barbs and stemmed necks. The
absence of these forms of implements is significant and is the result
of something more than mere accident. The Iroquois had every
opportunity of knowing of such objects and they were fully capable
of making them had they so desired. It appears from these facts
that the Iroquois deliberately chose not to use these things and
tabooed their being employed in any way. Apparently there was a
direct attempt to banish such articles beyond the pale of their
culture by deliberate avoidance. On the other hand the Iroquois
did use stone tomahawks or celts, and apparently mounted them in
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 497
the same manner as did the contiguous nations. They did use the
ball-headed wooden war club such as is widely found throughout the
continent; and their shallow mortars and mullers did not greatly
differ from those used by the Algonkian.
Their dwellings were houses of bark formed much like an arbor,
some with round and some with pitched roofs. Under normal condi-
tions these houses were communal dwellings and large in size.
There were no permanent dwellings circular in form; and mud huts
or hogans were not used. It is quite apparent that from the
earliest times they were an agricultural people, and neither archeol-
ogy nor the testimony of early explorers and travelers indicates
any wide difference in their village life from that of the Indians
of Virginia and the Carolinas, for example. They relied very
largely upon vegetables for their sustenance, and the cultivation of
the ground was regulated by certain established customs. It
appears that the Iroquois were far more like these Indians of the
middle south in their village life than such Indians of the north
as the Micmac or the Malecite.
Of great importance in the study of comparative archeology,
and we believe in the study of the origin of the Iroquois, is the
testimony of implements of pottery and smoking pipes. Iroquois
pottery is perhaps the most durable and striking of the material
found on their village sites or in their graves, and in both decoration
and form is distinctive from most forms of pottery used by the
Algonkian. Before discussing this subject further it may be well to
state that there are two general forms of Iroquois pottery, that is to
say, there are two archeological districts which yield pottery, which
may be compared. The first and westernmost is the Huron-Erie
area which embraces the Iroquoian sites in the Niagara peninsula,
in Ontario and the adjacent land to the west of it and north of
Lake Erie, including also the territory in New York along the
southern border of Lake Erie to the hilly land south of it. The
second area is the Mohawk-Onondaga, and takes in the region of the
St. Lawrence basin, the east shore of Lake Ontario, the south shore
of the Oswego river southward along the Seneca river, southward
through the Susquehanna valley and eastward through the Mohawk
498 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
valley. In the first district named the outline of the pot does not
show the high collar projecting as far from the neck as is common
in the second district. In many cases the collar is a very narrow
band and ornamented by parallel lines, simple oblique lines or
none at all (pi. xvm). In another variety the lines are formed in
the chevron pattern but in larger plats. In this form the collar
does not project very much from the body of the pot and the
decoration is carried down well onto the neck. There are instances
where the triangular patterns and short lines follow a line of oblique
lines drawn around the body of the pot below the rise of the neck.
Such patterns are found on the vessels from Ontario and figured by Dr.
Boyle, and by myself at Ripley, Chautauqua county. In the second
district the wide overhanging collar becomes almost a fixed char-
acteristic. Here it reaches the highest form of its special develop-
ment and archeologists usually describe one of these pots for their
ideal Iroquoian form. The pots in the first-named district usually
have the more squat body with bulging sides (pi. xix). A careful
comparison between the pottery vessels found by the writer at
Ripley, N. Y., and those pictured by David Boyle as having been
found by the Laidlaw brothers, in the sites along Balsam lake,
Ontario, Canada, will show that while a general outline and form
of body is similar to the pottery of the Mohawk-Onondaga area,
there are differences enough to warrant placing each district in a
class by itself.
Certain forms of Iroquoian pottery, as in western New York, do
not greatly differ from those discovered in the mounds of Ohio,
especially certain pottery forms described by Prof. Mills, of Ohio
State University. The forms to which we refer are those having
a globular body and short neck with a wide flaring mouth; the
entire surface of the body being decorated with the marks of a
paddle wrapped with grass stems or brushed while still plastic
with the same material. Large fragments of such pottery were
found by the writer in the prehistoric site at Burning Springs where
it was mixed with sherds of more conventional Iroquoian types.
Some of this pottery does not differ materially from certain forms
of Algonkian pottery except in the matter of shape. None of the
parkerJ ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 499
pointed bottoms are found in the Iroquoian district in New York.
Many Iroquoian vessels are small, containing not more than two
quarts, while others are larger and have a capacity of several
gallons. Complete vessels of the larger type are very rare but
many hundreds of sherds of large vessels are found throughout
Jefferson, Ontario, Erie, and Chautauqua counties.
In the study of the design found on the typically Mohawk
pottery it seems apparent that the parallel lines arranged in tri-
angles represent porcupine quill work such as is found on the rims
of bark baskets. There are certain other features of Iroquoian
pottery that lead one to believe that potters in making their vessels
had in mind bark baskets. Neither the square topped nor round
collar is dissimilar in form t6 the tops of the bark baskets and the
dots or short oblique lines placed around the upper edge seem to
imitate the binding of the wooden rim of the basket. Oftentimes
dots around the center of the body, at the beginning of the neck,
seem like the stitch marks seen on bark basketry. This idea was
first advanced by Frank Cushing who gives a figure of an Iroquois
basket which he says was copied in clay by potters. We believe
that the idea is correct, but the Iroquois of historic times did not
use bark baskets or vessels of this character. All of their baskets
that we have seen have flat bottoms and in outline are more or less
oval at the top.
Other pottery patterns, such as those found throughout the
Seneca district and western New York, have a narrow rim, on the
lower side of which is a series of notches or projecting teeth. Some-
times this rim is devoid of these projections and has oblique parallel
lines drawn at intervals to the edge of the rim. This form is similar
to the ordinary bark basket simply bound with an ash splint and
an elm bark tape. It is of value to note for comparative purposes
that the quilled or chevron pattern is far more prevalent in the
Mohawk-Onondaga district than it is in western New York or in
the Seneca-Erie region.
It is of great importance to note that Iroquoian pottery never
has a circular or scroll-like design such as is found upon the pots of
the south and of certain Ohio village sites. The absence of any
500 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
curved decorations or scroll designs is significant, and is one of the
things which points to a deliberate attempt to avoid the distinctive
art of certain other tribes.
All Iroquoian pottery seems to have been built by the coil
process, that is to say, it was formed by coiling ropes of clay upon
a base and then worked into the desired shape by continuing the
coiling process. Very few pots were blackened by pitch smoke
although some pipes were treated with this process.
Smoking-Pipes. — Smoking-pipes of both stone and clay are
numerous in the Huron-Iroquois area. There are several general
forms but all bear striking resemblance to each other. We have
given some description of these in a former paragraph.
The Iroquois pipes seem much different from those found in
any other archeological area, and it does not appear at first thought
that they were derived from any other forms except perhaps the
small tubular form with its end bent upward at an angle. There
are certain features, however, found in Iroquois pipes that remind
one of pipes of the contiguous tribes. It will be noted that the
monitor pipe of the mound-builder region has a bowl which re-
sembles an oval vase with a flaring rim. The bowl is set down into
the platform, the whole pipe of course being monolithic. The
Iroquois did not use the platform pipe, as we have previously
remarked, but they did employ every form of the stone bowl used
on platform pipes. The bowl, however, was built in all its lines
much like the monitor type but submerged into the platform stem.
The same remark applies to certain forms of effigy pipes where the
bowl has. an animal head projecting from it. Certain forms of
Iroquois clay pipes have similar bowls but with a stem of the same
material projecting from it. The Iroquois did not have anything
identical with the mound types with their beautifully formed effigies
of complete birds, toads, frogs and small mammals, such as are
featured by Squier and Davis.
There is one important exception to this statement, and it is
that relating to the cruder form of effigies found on platform stems.
On early Iroquois sites effigies of this kind are found in the so-called
lizard or panther pipes. The platform, however, has disappeared
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 501
and the bowl and the effigy have a different orientation. The
effigy seems to have clung to a narrow strip of the platform which
appears in the shape of a small stem, and the stem hole is drilled
in the back of the effigy, the bowl of the pipe being drilled down
through the top of the shoulders into the body of the effigy.
The drilling shows in most cases a large conical or beveled hole.
Other effigy forms show no traces of the platform or rod, as in the
case of the lizard pipes which perch upon their own tails, but are
conventionalized forms of birds, generally the owl, having the
body at the shoulders drilled for a bowl and the stem hole drilled
in the lower part of the back. Oftentimes in the front of the pipe
a conventionalized projection is made to resemble the feet. These
bear a perforation from which, ho doubt, were suspended ornaments.
Other forms of mound pipes used by the Iroquois without any
alteration are those from the Erie region resembling animal claws
and those modeled along cubical lines with a short stem base for
the insertion of a reed. Iroquois and mound pipes interpreted
and compared in the light of these observations show in general
conception a remarkable similarity. They are more alike than are
the pipes from the southern states or the Atlantic seaboard.
The stone owl pipe and the lizard pipe, which have been de-
scribed best by Col. George E. Laidlaw of the Provincial Museum
of Canada, are found in the early Iroquois sites in New York and
undoubtedly in sites of the same period throughout the entire
Iroquois area. The Province of Ontario has yielded many, numbers
of them having been found in New York, still others have been
found in Maryland and Virginia as well as the Carolinas. Others
have been found elsewhere, but only occasionally.
These effigy pipes of the Iroquois in some ways remind one of the
Cherokee pipes which have the effigy standing on the front part
of the stem. In the Iroquois pipe, however, the stem has been
abandoned and the effigy has either " sprung upon" or "grasped"
the bowl or made it a part of itself. It is not difficult to conceive
that this type might have been derived from either the Cherokee
or mound pipes. A single dream of an old woman of the early
tribe, widely recounted among the people as a necessary provision
502 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
demanded by the spirits, might cause a modification in any line
of material culture. We have only to examine the history of the
modern drum dance of the Ojibway and middle Plains tribes to
discover how a dream can institute a custom that becomes widely
known and followed.
Iroquois pottery pipes are among the most interesting forms of
their ceramic art and some of the best modeling is found in them.
They bear upon their bowls the effigies of birds and mammals,
animal heads, human heads, and representation of earthen pots and
other objects. They are far more complex and made with greater
care than are the Algonkian pipes. Iroquois clay pipes are by far
the best made by the aborigines of North America north of Mexico.
There are certain features about them that give a hint of the
customs and costumes of the people who made them, for example;
they show that the skin robe with the animal head still upon it
was worn as a blanket and head piece (pi. xx) ; they give an idea
of facial decoration; they represent masked figures with their
hands to their lips blowing, as in the false face ceremony, or they
reveal their totemic animals. Some of them have numerous human
faces modeled upon the stem and bowl, and both the form of the
face and the concept is still carried out by some of the Iroquois
today, especially the Cayuga, who carved these faces upon knarled
roots as charms against witches.
The most common type of pipe among the Mohawk-Onondaga
group is that having a flaring trumpet mouth. The Seneca-Erie
on the other hand, including the Huron of the north, commonly
used pipes having a cylindrical bowl upon which was a long collar
decorated by parallel rings.
Certain forms of pipes show how widely prevalent certain con-
cepts were among the Huron- Iroquois. Briefly these are the owl-
faced pipe, the blowing pipe with the human face, the ring collar
pipe, the square-topped pipe with the flaring collar, the trumpet
bowled pipe, and others. It appears that Iroquois pipes are a
unique part of their culture. Further description of these is given
in another portion of this treatise.
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 503
An Iroquois Migration Hypothesis
For the sake of a working hypothesis and for the benefit of
future discussion, we wish to advance a theory explaining the
presence of the Iroquois in their present area.
Let us suppose that the one, two, or more related tribes of early
Huron- Iroquois lived in a portion of a region included within a
circle having a radius of 200 miles and with its center at the mouth
of the Ohio river. Here they were in contact with the Caddo, the
Muskogee, the Sioux and some of the Algonkian. They were
more or less agricultural and sedentary and familiar with village
life. They knew how to erect stockades and build earthen walls
for their enclosures.
Some movement of intruding immigrants or other influence
caused them as a body to push northward up the Ohio river.
Some went eastward into the Carolinas but the main body migrated
in a northeasterly direction. The tribes of the Cherokee were the
first to lead the way and crowded upon the mound-building Indians
of Ohio, whom they fought for a long period of time. They finally
overcame the Mound Builders 1 and absorbed a large number into
their tribal divisions, and possessed themselves of the Mound
Builders' country. Very likely they were assisted in this conquest
by bands of Choctaw, Algonkian and by some of their own kinsmen.
They took upon themselves some of the characteristics of the
Mound Builders, but endeavored to blot out some of their arts, to
the extent of mutilating objects they regarded as symbolic of their
Other Iroquoian tribes then pushed northward and endeavored
to pass through the Cherokee-Mound Builder country. Jealousies
arose and the newcomers with the Delaware began a general war
against them, finally driving them southward and across the Appa-
lachian ranges. This estranged the two branches and led to wars
continuing well into the historic period.
The beauty and fertility of the country attracted settlement,
but the Cherokee constantly raided their villages. Bands then
1 We use this term only as a convenient expression to describe the Indian tribes
of the region under discussion.
504 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
began to cross the Detroit river and push their way into the penin-
sula between Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario. A band now known
as the Huron established themselves near and southward of Lake
Simcoe. An allied tribe, the Attiwandaronk or Neuter possessed
the region south and east of them, taking the Grand river country
and pushing eastward across the Niagara. Still other bands pushed
over the northern shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario and fought
their way to the mouth of the St. Lawrence.
Powerful bands established themselves about the St. Lawrence,
with the site of Montreal as a center. They were Mohawk-
Onondaga, though the Onondaga soon pushed southward to the
hilly region east of the foot of Lake Ontario, in the present Jefferson
Certain bands continued on the south shores of the lakes and
pushed their way eastward. One division, the Erie, claimed nearly
the entire southern shore of Lake Erie, while the Seneca, pushing
eastward, laid hold of the country from the Genesee river to
Canandaigua lake. The Conestoga, or Andaste, took northern
Pennsylvania, especially the region embraced by the two branches
of the Susquehanna, including the Chemung river and southward,
perhaps as far as Harrisburg. From thence to the headwaters of
the Chesapeake the Susquehannock claimed domain. Still south-
ward, but east of the Cherokee, pushed the Tuscarora and it is
possible that bands of them lived there earlier.
There was constant intercourse between the various tribes who
were well aware of the seats of each other. Often the various
bands were at war one with the other, and often there were loose
alliances, as of the Tuscarora with the northern Iroquois. The
Cherokee and Iroquois, especially the Seneca, were constantly at
war. To the north the chief enemy of the Iroquois was the
Adirondack tribe, which later allied itself with the Huron.
The Huron-Iroquois pushed the eastern Algonkian to a narrow
strip along the coast separating them from their western kinsmen
and exercising a dominant influence over their material culture and
to some extent their social organization. The Delaware, who were
closely associated with the Iroquois, were always more or less
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 505
friendly with them, and, indeed, in the historic period at least,
acknowledged the supreme authority of the confederated Iroquois
The raids of the Adirondack or Abenaki of the north, and the
hostility of the southern Iroquois at length compelled the Lauren-
tian Iroquois, the Mohawk, Onondaga, and Oneida tribes, to form
a compact which later took in the Cayuga and then the Seneca.
The Onondaga, early, had pushed further south, leaving their
east Ontario (Jefferson county) strongholds, and occupied the hilly
country south of Onondaga lake, in the present Onondaga county.
The incursions of the Abenaki made this necessary. The Mohawk
soon followed, owing to disagreements with the Laurentian Huron.
In their southern migration they came upon the Mohawk valley
country where they established themselves; first, on the highlands
north of the river, in the present Fulton and Montgomery counties;
and later on the southern side of the river. The Oneida band,
long a separate body, moved westward into the highlands of Madi-
son county. Still west and on the hills near Limestone creek, were
the Onondaga, and beyond them the Cayuga living along the Seneca
river and southward about Cayuga lake.
Between these divisions of Iroquois, in spite of a common origin
and common stock dialects, there was much jealousy and frequent
feuds. In general their southern neighbors gave them too much
trouble to leave much time for war between themselves. The
Mohawk sent war parties north to harrass their foes, the Huron
and Abenaki and even the Micmac; but in turn they were disturbed
by the Conestoga or Andaste whose Chemung valley settlements
made war on the Cayuga also. The Seneca and Erie tribes in
the Genesee country and along Lake Erie were in constant contact
and perhaps allied for defensive purposes. The westernmost Seneca
settlements were especially friendly with the Erie. On both sides
of the Niagara river were the villages of the Attiwandaronk, or
Neutral, considered an old and parent body of all the Huron-
Iroquois. Within one of their villages near the Niagara lived
Ji-gon-sa-seh, "The Mother of Nations," a woman who was regarded
as a lineal descendant of the " first woman of earth."
506 AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST [n. s., 18, 1916
The pressure of the eastern Iroquois and the additional power
their friendship would give, made the idea of a confederacy an
inviting one to the Seneca and a large portion of the nation sub-
scribed to it. The Erie were not kindly disposed toward the idea
and the southern Iroquois were not at all attracted by it. The
Neutral saw no need of entering the league since they made no
local wars and since both their Huron and Iroquois kinsmen
respected their ancient authority and the prestige given them by
the. "Mother of Nations." Thus, the Iroquois Confederacy or
Long House came only to embrace the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga,
Cayuga, and Seneca. The fact that some of their kinsmen would
not join the confederacy was displeasing to the Five Nations, who
though dedicating their league to the establishment of peace saw
grave danger in their neighbors who refused to subscribe to the
articles of friendship. The new confederacy was soon beset with
enemies on all sides who saw in its rising influence a general danger.
But the confederacy developed certain mental qualities within its
leaders who were not to be overwhelmed. They became astute
statesmen as well as ferocious warriors. They learned the advan-
tage of concerted action, of compromise among themselves, and of
organizing mass onslaughts. Thus nation after nation fell before
them, the Erie, the Neutral, the Huron, the Wenro, and the Cones-
toga. The Cherokee were too far away to be effectively reached.
Although the Five Nations lost thousands of warriors, their foes
lost more, and the surviving enemy were made captives, led into
the Iroquois villages, and adopted. This swelled their ranks
enormously and virtually united by blood mixture all the Iroquois.
Triumph did not come to them, however, until the middle of
the colonial period, and with this triumph came the golden age of
the Five Nations. This was from 1650 to 1755. Before the earlier
date their foes had been Indians, and after that date they battled
with the white man, it is true, but they lost no power. By 1755
however, the colonists had come in such numbers that the Five
Nations saw the end of their ascendancy as an imperial power.
They had come, they had conquered, and now they became en-
gulfed in a complex of cultural elements of which their ancestors
parker] ORIGIN OF THE IROQUOIS 507
never dreamed* More than five thousand Iroquois remain in New
York State; more than fifteen thousand reside in the United States
and in Canada, but whence they came in the dim distant past, not
one remains to tell. The secret may only be solved by the student
of Iroquois mythology and of archeology. Our present knowledge,
as we have argued points to a southern origin, "down the Ohio."
University of the State of New York,
Albany, N. Y.